Here’s a little tip for the next time you staying in a hotel — check the itemized bill. A recent study out of New York University found that U.S. hotels collected a record $2.1 billion in fees and surcharges in 2013, a billion-dollar increase from 2012. That increase is due to a combination of hotels having higher occupancy, raising rates and charging additional fees.
The trend of charging more fees started in 1997, when hotels started to charge resort fees like “amenities tariff.” In 2000, energy surcharges were introduced. Since then, hotels have gone a surcharge spree, tacking on fees to guests’ bills for Internet usage, room service, and mini-bar restocking, among other amenities.
The last thing any traveler wants while on a trip is to end up shocked and dismayed by a higher-than-expected hotel bill. That’s why it’s important before you book any hotel that you read all the fine print, check out reviews, and comparison shop. If you already know that you will want to use facilities like a fitness center or need a place to park your car, look for hotels that offer those amenities for free. Good research today will save you from paying an expensive hotel bill tomorrow.
Before you start your search, check out this list of 12 sneaky hotel fees that might end up on your hotel bill.
1. Airport shuttle fee
While some hotels offer free shuttle rides, some will add a charge onto your bill. If it’s the cheapest way to get to your hotel or the airport, then you might just have to pay the fee. But research online beforehand to find out if taking a bus, taxi, or another method of transportation might be cheaper.
2. Baggage storage fees
Many hotels will offer to store your bags for free if you arrive before check-in or plan to leave the area later than check-out time. But some hotels might charge you a fee to store your bags. Unfortunately, there isn’t much you can do if you want to explore the area and have luggage with you. Of course, you can always carry or lug your luggage around town.
3. Early or late check-in fee
Arriving at your hotel earlier or later than your check-in time might incur a fee. The best way to avoid this fee is to plan your arrival carefully. If you know you will arrive early or late, you can let the hotel know and they might be able to accommodate you. Usually, it’s just a matter of how busy the hotel is and whether the room will be ready before you arrive.
4. Early departure fees
Some hotels charge you a fee for leaving early because they want to maximize occupancy. From the hotel’s point of view, if guests get turned away because there’s no availability, they lose money when a booked room suddenly becomes vacant and they’re unable to fill it. You can try to get the hotel to waive the fee, especially if you’re leaving for an emergency.
Some travelers book the first or last night of a hotel separately from the other batch of nights they intend to stay at the hotel in case they arrive or leave early. When canceling, the guest cancels the unwanted booking online before incurring a late cancellation fee. It’s not necessarily a foolproof strategy, but it’s one that some travelers have utilized successfully.
5. Fitness center fee
Many hotels offer free access to a fitness center, but some will charge you for it. The easiest way to avoid this fee is to go running around the city for free. You might also burn calories walking around town as you explore.
6. Internet fee
With Wi-Fi and smartphones so prevalent these days, it might surprise you to learn that some hotels charge for Internet access. And surprisingly enough, it’s the more luxurious hotels that charge for Internet. After all, guests who drop $400 or more for a hotel won’t care for a small Internet charge. If you have a smartphone or if there’s a nearby cafe with free Wi-Fi you can avoid this fee.
7. Minibar fee
If there’s a minibar in your room, be careful because you’re likely going to get charged if you consume anything in it. Moreover, everything in there is likely to be way overpriced anyway. Even just picking up a drink might trigger a sensor, so check your bill to make sure you’re not charged. Avoid those fees by packing your own minibar, buying your own beverages and snacks at the local mini-mart, or just going somewhere cheaper to drink and eat.
8. Parking fees
If you’re bringing a car along with you during your trip or renting one, be wary of paying fees to park at the hotel’s lot. The hotel will try to nickel and dime you by charging huge fees. When making your reservation, be sure to look into what the parking fee is. If it’s not listed, inquire via email or over the phone. Do some research to see if a nearby lot is cheaper, if parking on the street is a plausible option, or if public transportation renders a car unnecessary. Check hotel reviews to see where past guests parked their cars.
9. Phone fees
Hotels will charge you for using their phones, of course, especially if you’re calling someone abroad. Some hotels might charge you $3 or more per minute if you make a long-distance call. Don’t end up with an unnecessarily high phone bill. Use your own cell phone or a payphone to make calls instead. You can always Skype or talk via an instant messenger, too.
10. Resort fees
From using a towel on the pool deck to accessing facilities on site, resorts have found ways to tack on fees for the amenities provided to guests. Some fees are small — a charge for getting the newspaper delivered to your room — while others are more extravagant — using the spa. Avoid a resort that charges outrageous fees by reading the fine print before you book.
If you don’t intend to use any of the amenities the resort charges for, you can try to explain your situation to the front desk clerk and get your fees waived. Unfortunately, if you find yourself in a situation where you’re charged resort fees, you’re kind of on the hook for paying them (if you’re a member of the hotel’s loyalty program you might be able to get it waived).
11. Room service fees
Unless you’re in an emergency situation, there’s no need to order room service, tempting as it may be. The food is almost always overpriced. Plus, don’t you want to explore the city’s dining options? You will get more bang for your buck, while taking in the sights and sounds of a new town.
12. Safe fee
There’s nothing like a $1-3 fee just to have a safe in a room — even if you don’t use it. You can ask the hotel to remove the safe upon check-in or just get a room without one if you don’t want to pay the fee.